A major touring exhibition centered on Tupac Shakur and spearheaded by his estate will arrive in Los Angeles in January.
The exhibition, “Tupac Shakur. Wake Me When I’m Free,” opens on Jan. 21, in a newly built, temporary 20,000-square-foot space in the entertainment complex L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.
Shakur, a hip-hop artist, poet, actor and activist who released his first album in 1991 and went on to become one of the top-selling rappers in the 1990s, was killed in Las Vegas in 1996, at age 25. The case was never solved. He also acted in films including John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice,” in which he starred opposite Janet Jackson. In the decades since his death, he has inspired dozens of albums, books, movies, theater productions and even a hologram. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The exhibition, named after a Shakur poem included on the album “The Rose That Grew From Concrete, Volume 1” in 2000, features artifacts, contemporary art, music and multisensory elements in telling the story of Shakur’s life.
“It became evident very quickly that this was way bigger than his music,” Arron Saxe, one of the exhibition’s co-producers, said in a phone interview on Monday. “You can’t talk about Tupac without talking about Afeni, his mother, and you can’t talk about Afeni without talking about her involvement in the Panther Party, and you’re then talking about the connections with the Civil Rights movement.”
It’s “a story about race in America using Tupac as a proxy,” he added.
Shakur’s estate worked for more than six years and has a number of partners, among them Nwaka Onwusa, the chief curator at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Jeremy Hodges, the show’s creative director and founder of Project Art Collective. Shakur’s activism and his music will be highlighted, Saxe said. Part of the exhibition’s aim, he said, will be to demystify the legend.
“There will be notebooks, song lyrics, poetry and also everyday stuff like shopping lists, and phone numbers on pieces of paper,” Saxe said. Humanizing him is a focus “because he and a lot of these other figures are mythical, larger than life.”
After about six months, the exhibition will travel to other cities in the United States and internationally.